Trine Men's Basketball Wins NCAA National Championship
Sunday, March 17, 2024

Posted originally on Mar 16, 2024 by LINKA

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – In the team's first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Trine University men's basketball team ran the table and won the 2024 NCAA Division III National Championship with a 69-61 victory over Hampden-Sydney College. The victory came in front of a crowd of 4,546, a new record for the best attendance for an NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship game.

After being selected as an at-large team to make the NCAA Tournament, Trine was chosen as a host in the first and second weekends of the event, and wins led them down the road to Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, the home of the National Championship Semifinals and Championship game. After ousting Trinity (Conn.) College in the semifinal round, the Thunder nabbed their sixth consecutive win to be the last team standing.

"The first half of the game was an absolute war at both ends," Head Coach Brooks Miller said postgame. "I thought each team made the other work hard on both ends. At halftime, we had one plan, and that was to stick to what we were doing. You walk into our locker room and the looks on these guy's faces give you a lot of confidence as a coach. It's awesome to be a national champion!"

After his struggles to score in the semifinal round, senior guard Cortez Garland paced the team with 22 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Off the bench, sophomore Nate Tucker had 13 points, while junior Aidan Smylie (12) and junior Drew Moore (10) were also in double figures. Senior Emmanuel Megnanglo pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. The trio of Garland, Tucker and Smylie were named to the All-Tournament Team, with Garland selected as the Most Outstanding Player.

The defense stood out as extraordinary for the team after holding the Tigers to 31.8% (21-for-66) from the field. Each team had nine turnovers, but a big key that kept Hampden-Sydney in the game was their work on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded the Thunder 41-34 and that led to a 20-4 difference in second chance points.

Trine fell behind early in the game 11-6 and after a pair of free throws by Smylie, neither team was able to take the lid off the rim. There was a stretch from 12:48 to play until 8:21 on the clock where both teams were without a point. A made jumper by Tucker at 6:36 to go ended a 10-minute stretch without a made field goal for Trine and six minutes without a point, but the team trailed 19-10.

A 13-0 run began when Smylie converted a shot from distance, followed by Tucker and Moore from deep. That would give the Thunder a 23-19 lead, the defense holding the opposition scoreless for nearly five minutes (6:15 to 1:42). The final six points of the first half belonged to Hampden-Sydney, highlighted by a fading three just before the buzzer sounded.

The break was effective for Trine, as they came out of the locker room and went on an 11-2 run going into the first media timeout. Cortez Garland was the catalyst of the scoring spree with nine points himself. The Tigers cut the lead down to 36-33, but Tucker nailed a jump shot off a feed by Smylie to remain in front.

The entirety of the second half belonged to the Thunder, with three-point plays sucking the life out of their opponents. Smylie stepped back for a corner three to go up 50-41 and after Hampden-Sydney tried to go on a run once again, Cortez Garland added an and-one to keep momentum on their side. Junior Fred Garland knocked down a three-point try with three minutes to go to give Trine some breathing room at 56-47 with three minutes left.

The Thunder would knock down their free throws down the stretch, as they did the whole game after going 22-for-25 at the charity stripe, to secure the 69-61 win. Trine won the second half by a mark of 46-36. The team's fifth year students in Cortez Garland and Brent Cox as well as natural seniors Megnanglo and Cameron Awls potentially walk off the floor for the final time as champions.

All Details Provided by Original Trine Article: LINKA